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Focus turns to grassroots racing as prize money hits record levels

Wetherby racecourse.
Wetherby racecourse.
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Racing at the middle and lower tiers will benefit from increased funding this year with prize money set to hit record levels.

The use of additional Levy funds was agreed as part of a three-year package by the sport’s governance structure comprising the British Horseracing Authority, Racecourse Association and members of the Horsemen’s Group.

La Bague Au Roi (right) ridden by Richard Johnson wins the olbg.com Mares' Hurdle at Wetherby in November.

La Bague Au Roi (right) ridden by Richard Johnson wins the olbg.com Mares' Hurdle at Wetherby in November.

Participants at those levels are set to benefit most through an appearance money scheme and race incentive fund aimed at the sport’s grassroots participants.

The BHA said the total prize-money forecast for racing this year sits at £160million, representing a rise of at least £17m on the £143m which is forecast to be reached in 2017, and an all-time high in terms of returns to owners and competitors.

The sport’s new appearance money scheme also began today.

This scheme sees qualifying races introducing payments of at least £300 on the Flat and £350 over jumps for horses finishing between fifth and eighth place.

As well as improving the return to owners at the middle and lower tiers, the appearance money scheme has been designed to increase the number of races attracting at least eight runners with a view to encouraging betting on British racing.

Racecourses have the opportunity to unlock the extra prize money funding by investing their own revenues into the prize money and reaching minimum threshold values.

As a result of the investment into grassroots prize money, a large proportion of races run in Britain in 2018 will have an advertised total race value of at least £6,000.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: “It is very important for all those involved in our sport that we are due to see such significant prize-money increases in 2018.

“Although there has been a gradual recovery in total prize money in recent years driven by increased investment from racecourses, the returns to our sport’s owners and participants have not been sufficient, in particular to those who are not competing at the top echelons.

“The support we received from the government and, indeed, all political parties in establishing the new Levy has been crucial and means that we can target support towards those operating at the racing’s grassroots.

“The increased prize money on offer in 2018 does not resolve the sport’s prize money situation outright, but it is a step in the right direction.

“We hope that this good news will serve as an incentive to racehorse owners who are thinking of putting horses in training, and provide a timely boost to jockeys, trainers and stable staff, who rely in part on prize money for their livelihoods.”